TULSA, Okla. - Road wins don't come easy for the Marshall football team under Coach Doc Holliday. One didn't come easy Thursday night for the Thundering Herd, either.
But it still came.
The Thundering Herd jumped out to a three-touchdown first-quarter lead, but had to come back in the fourth quarter to score its first win over Tulsa, 45-34, at H.A. Chapman Stadium. That victory - which came in the Herd's fifth try against the Golden Hurricane - gave Marshall (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) seven regular-season wins for the first time since finishing 8-4 in 2003.
It was Marshall's third straight win and fifth in the last six games. With it, the Herd stays neck-and-neck with East Carolina for the Conference USA East Division lead for another week.
"It was ugly at times," Holliday said. "But you know what? At the end of the day, they found a way to get it done. We won the football game, and I've got a feeling there's 75 people up there that are kind of smiling, looking down right now. And that's a hell of a deal."
Holliday said the Herd was an emotional bunch entering the game, the first it was able to play on the anniversary of the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 Marshall players, coaches, staff and supporters. The team wore the number 75 on the left side of their helmets to commemorate the anniversary. Also the game kicked off at 7:36 p.m., the time of the crash, and Tulsa held a moment of silence before playing the "Star Spangled Banner."
"It was important to these guys that we gave that fan base, the community, the university and the school something to smile about at the end of the day," Holliday said.
That wasn't guaranteed for Marshall after it allowed 20 straight points to the Golden Hurricane and fell behind 34-31 with 12:44 left in the game. But the Herd got its chance to go ahead after a 34-yard Tulsa punt that DeAndre Reaves took 11 yards to the Tulsa 38. On the ensuing drive, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato led a touchdown drive that included 19- and 18-yard passes to Tommy Shuler, the 18-yarder for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:47 left.
Tulsa (2-8, 1-5 C-USA) tried to respond, but redshirt freshman Dane Evans was sacked for a 20-yard loss on fourth and 11. Essray Taliaferro scored on the next drive to put the game away.
"A lot of people don't understand, there's not a lot of difference in winning and losing," Tulsa Coach Bill Blankenship said. "And the mistakes that you make generally accentuate one or the other.